WATCH LIVE: Democrats give update on Vanessa Guillén Act, reform bill on military sexual assault
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and Reps. Jackie Speier, Mike Turner, Sylvia Garcia are expected to hold a news conference to discuss the “Vanessa Guillen Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act,” legislation that would remove decisions on prosecuting sexual assault cases from military commanders.
The event is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. ET. Watch the announcement in the player above.
Gillibrand has the support of 66 senators for a bill that would have independent prosecutors handle felonies that call for more than a year in prison. But other key lawmakers and leaders of the military services have balked at including all major crimes, saying stripping control of all crimes from commanders could hurt military readiness, erode command authority, and require far more time and resources.
In a recent interview with the AP, Gillibrand said the wider change is necessary to combat racial injustice within the military, where studies have found that Black people are more likely to be investigated and arrested for misconduct.
Gillibrand has argued against limiting the change to sexual assault, saying it would be discriminatory and set up what some call a “pink” court to deal with crimes usually involving female victims.
“I’m deeply concerned that if they limit it to just sexual assault, it will really harm female service members. It will further marginalize them, further undermine them, and they’ll be seen as getting special treatment,” she told the AP.
In recent weeks military service secretaries and chiefs, in memos to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and letters to Capitol Hill, said they were wary about the sexual assault change, and laid out greater reservations on more broadly revamping the military justice system.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said removing commanders from prosecution decisions “may have an adverse effect on readiness, mission accomplishment, good order and discipline, justice, unit cohesion, trust, and loyalty between commanders and those they lead.”
In a letter to Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Milley acknowledged the military hasn’t made sufficient progress in combating sexual assault. He has repeatedly said, though, he’s open to the sexual assault change.
The PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.